I must say I am such a happy girl today. I get to share one of my favourite bloggers with you. The lovely Helene of Masala Herb allowed me to interview her recently. I was over the moon when she said yes.
I adore Helene and her blog. She takes such amazing photos and makes the most delectable food. I am always in awe of her photo styling. She is just so incredibly talented.
What's wicked cool about Helene is she is so genuine and down to earth. She really takes the time to bond with fellow bloggers. I love how supportive she is, and how kind she is. I have high hopes to meet her one day in person.
I hope you enjoy getting to know her as much as I did. She is good people!
1. What inspired you to start a food blog?
I love to indulge food and I used to hate cooking (Oh yes it’s true!) but I learned to love it in my own time in Goa, so food has turned out to be a very important obsession in my life. I am a huge fan of the internet, I mean I love it and this has been one of the best and most useful inventions in the history of humankind. As a kid I used to create homemade magazines full of cut out real magazine pictures which I would try to sell to my 2 siblings. I needed a bigger audience for what I love to do! Long story short, it was bound to happen that I create my own food blog! I enjoy all aspects of it, discovering ingredients and combinations, the cooking and techniques, the writing, picture taking and the networking. I enjoy it that much that I am even learning the technical geek stuff.
2. You live in such a beautiful place (Goa, India for those reading), do you find yourself eternally inspired by it?
Hm, good question! It’s a magical place, a melting pot of cultures so for sure Goa can be defined as a crazy place where every day brings you a new surprise. Food is omnipresent anyway and blends with other things such as culture and the people. The people living here the whole year round, half year and the travellers have no limits in expressing their imaginary freedoms. If you are looking for the most colorful place in the world then it can only be Goa and it is the place for you if you are looking to live and experience ultimate freedom for your mind. The best example for that is the Flee market here where “local” foreigners sell their own unique cloth designs. I mean I have seen amazing creations in Goa. Ideas are often picked up by well known designers and after a while they turn out to be new trends all over the world. Of course this applies to food too and other Art related topics. So yes I have an ocean of inspiration to my disposition and there is always something new to discover.
3. You also spent part of your life in Austria, how do the two places differ from a culinary aspect?
Those are two completely different places, 2 extreme dualities just like the day and the night. Austrian food culture is all about meat, milk products, herbs, glutinous food and sweet complex pastries and cakes. It’s heavier and much more filling, perfect for the cold climate. The Indian cuisine on the other hand is mostly Vegetarian if not Vegan and the dishes are stuffed with multiple spice combinations. Of course Indian cuisine consists of many different type of regional specialities and they have their own customs as well. Goan cuisine for example is so very portugues, so it does have some european aires. You forgot to mention my french food roots Kim! My mother is french so in our house we would enjoy 90% of the time french Food. As you know french cuisine involves many brilliant cooking techniques and flavor combinations. Further in terms of flavors it has little similarities with the Indian food but Indian cuisine has some very smart techniques so in that way it has something in common with French food.
4. Are there things you won’t eat or do you have a pretty adventurous palette?
I have an adventurous palette but I don’t eat mussels and oysters and fatty parts in meat. Otherwise I'll eat anything as long as it is a wonderful exciting dish. I enjoyed frog too, just like chicken.
5. How about your hubby, is he what us bloggers consider a “good eater”?
Ah non... When we met I kept on talking about food and he didn’t understand what was wrong with me and I kept on shaking my head in disbelieve that he doesn’t like to eat. He believes eating is a nuisance, a thing one has to do. Except Tandoori Chicken, he could eat it (and he has!) everyday the whole day long. Slowly I got him to enjoy some foods. The trick is to present him always something new with the spice combination he knows and then slowly you change and twist dishes so that he starts to enjoy a french style roast chicken with thyme. He is very picky and he will only eat food that was perfectly prepared with only fresh quality ingredients. His mother is a great cook so the satisfaction bar is high up in the sky!
6. What’s your favourite place to eat out of all your travels, does one particular place really stand out?
I am not sure about that one... There is a great Italian here and one in my town and I enjoyed a restaurant in lausanne switzerland where they made me my beloved fondue. I remember a restaurant in Rijeka croatia too that served great fish and one in the mountains in Tyrol and the coffee haus in Vienna and that place in Guadeloupe Caribbeans... I could go on like this remembering places but I would never be able to remember the name of the place. That’s why my food blog comes handy. I click pictures, write a post and I'll never forget the restaurant again!
7. What about spices and herbs, which ones are drawn to?
Masala Herb and I like and need them all so there is no favorite and they all come handy sooner or later.
8. What’s a typical day like for you, run us through an average day in life of Helene?
LOL That’s very difficult because each day is quite different and that too depends on the season. At least since I started to blog I got a little schedule which I try to follow. Those are mostly fixed responsibilities in the season, any blogging related things are somewhere inbetween.
Get up somewhere between 7-9 am, have coffee with my husband and discuss the things we have to do for the day, clean up the house, make and have lunch, check the gym, check the pastry, water the garden, make dinner, spend some no pc time with my husband and then go to sleep at around 1-2 am. That’s the average and anything blog related includes, recipe development, cooking, taking pictures, writing, fixing blog tech stuff, networking etc etc.
9. How do you balance work and blogging and life?
I wish I knew how I do it. I try to complete my work asap so to get on with the next thing. It’s easier in the rainy season, the responsibilities are much less.
10. You have the coolest header on your blog, how did that idea come about?
There I was thinking about my future blog name when I got the idea of Masala Herb. In India masalas are spice mixtures, and it reminded me of goa and myself and my husband a bit. Herbs remind me of europe and the cooler parts of the world, my roots. So Masala spices and Herbs... they needed to be in my header! I clicked pictures put it together and the header was born.
11. Are you a milk chocolate, dark chocolate or white chocolate fan?
White chocolate isn’t chocolate. I enjoy deep dark unsweetened chocolate with character.
12. Tell us a little bit about your early experiences with food, any disaster stories you might like to share with us?
hmm, In cooking I had too many disaster stories when I learned it. I was scared and unsure and the school time colleagues weren't that fun to be with either. The teacher was pretty oblivious to everything around her. They used to spit in her food and often I was fretting that they might have done the same with my salad or dessert. In general I am very exact with food when it's about hygiene. I am unlucky with ovens too, I destroyed the college oven, my mother's oven and my friends oven. The latter was scary because it actually started to burn and the flames were quite threatening. Otherwise I have gone through a few burned and under cooked dishes here and there, I burned my hand a few times, but most importantly I never gave up!
13. How often do you cook at home?
At the time when we were running our tandoori cum Juice bar I used to not cook dinner at home since we had no kitchen in the house. We had build up a pretty kitchen in the restaurant and we were spending our days over there and since we had just moved into our house we hadn't thought of turning one part of the house into a kitchen. Later on we installed some essentials and last year we got an oven, so since that I have been cooking 2 times at least everyday at home. Of course during the busy Tourist season i tend to skip cooking one meal per day and instead we eat out or we get food from the family restaurant. The restaurant is located a few meters from our house, which of course is awesome. I believe cooking here in Goa takes much more effort too. I don't have a servant to help me clean (many houses here keep 1-2 servants), I don't have a full on practical kitchen and I don't have a dish washer. On top of that the climate can be a huge challenge especially during summer time when the heat is unbearable and during the monsoon the weather is nice and cool but the massive humidity promotes mold growth which can be very annoying. Otherwise most probably I would be cooking more often then just 2 meals per day.
14. Which type of cuisine is your all time favourite?
I don’t fix on a favorite cuisine. In no particular order, I like French, Austrian, Italian, Indian, North African, Japanese, Caribbean, Spanish, Fusion,.... I could go on like this! What is more important is a particularly well prepared perfectly flavored dish. For example I love my mother in laws Goan Pork Sorpotel but I have never enjoyed it if anybody else presented their final Sorpotel. By the way Indian food abroad doesn’t taste like Indian food, it’s very rare that it actually does.
15. What is your absolute favourite thing to do when you're not working?
If not cooking/baking, I love to read, draw and paint, travel and I enjoy playing Playstation games. In general I have many interests so it all depends on my mood and what inspires me at that moment.
16. If you could cook/bake with any one person living, or passed, who would it be and why?
That would be my french Grandmother. She passed away just before I started my blog in 2011. She has never seen me cooking with joy and she was an amazing cook! She used to nag and beg me to cook with her when I was last in france in 2008. It often crosses my mind but the past is past...
17. What one item would you wish to wash up on shore if you were ever stranded on a deserted island?
A big lighter with plenty of gas? I hope the island has coconut trees!
18. What’s your favourite kitchen toy, the one you can’t live without?
My oven!!! We finally got an oven back in September. It’s small and humble but it does the work. I wouldn’t be able to go back and just prepare food with my gas stove.
19. Are you an apron girl, or no apron?
No apron and no uniform. I can’t stand my cooking uniform, it freaks me out and I can’t cook. I am traumatized by my college cooking years.
20. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? Is blogging still a big part of the picture?
Oh yes it better be! In 5 years I'll be 30 so I better be somewhere traveling and checking out secrete sausage curing cellars and unknown food artisanal “workshops” and kitchens. You can ask me how I fared in 5 years!
Isn't she gorgeous! I cannot wait to meet this lady.
I have told Helene I am so envious of her travels. She has lives in India with her hubby. I cannot tell you how much I'd love to visit her. When she posts her recipes I'm always in awe of the ingredients she has readily available. Exotic cuisine is hard to come by where I live. So there is much jealousy when I see some of the cool things she cooks up.
One of my favourite things Helene has cooked up is her Alebele which is a Goan Coconut Filled Pancake. If you've not seen this recipe please rush over and check it out. It's so impressive you won't believe your eyes.
Another absolute beautiful recipe she's done is something called Austrian Linzer Augen Cookies. I want to try them around Christmas time. They are so delicate and pretty.
There's one recipe of Helene's I just could not stop thinking about. This will give you a little hint. Here's the photo of my version of her dish.
I always sample at least one recipe from each blogger I interview for Burning Down The Kitchen. I had seen Helene's Sesame Chicken some time ago and honestly I could not stop thinking about this recipe. So I decided to whip it up. Let me tell you this dish is foolproof and delicious. I just loved it. I made it exactly like Helene's, the only thing I swapped out was the sesame seeds, I tend to love the black sesame seeds. So today I'm sharing my photos of the recipes but encouraging you all to go to Helene's blog, Masala Herb for the recipe for Sesame Chicken. You can find her recipe and her gorgeous photos of the dish there.
Helene not only operates her blog, but she also is part of the team that does Food Writer Friday. It's a great series where her and Maureen of Orgasmic Chef interview fellow bloggers. It's such smart writing and I always enjoy reading the interviews. I was lucky enough to be featured myself there recently and was thrilled beyond belief to be asked. The ladies really go out of their way to make the interviews so personal and enjoyable.
I'd like everyone to stop by Masala Herb to say hello to Helene. You should make sure you sign up to get her updates via email. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and G+. I would follow her everywhere. She's totally worth it.
I'd like to thank Helene for the pleasure of getting to know her better and sharing her with all my readers. Helene you are an amazing woman and I am so happy to call you my friend.
For my readers just a little FYI, I'm in Philly for the weekend attending Eat Write Retreat. I'll be sure to share photos and stories from my adventure when I return. I also owe you the Food Blog Forum recap which will be coming at you next week. You will love all the great photos.
Helene recently posted a drink recipe called Limonana which I am totally trying out when I get back from my trip. It looks amazing. Make sure you buzz over to see that.
Take care and see you soon. Wish me well on my road trip. I tend to go loopy on road trips so I need all the good vibes I can get.
Toodles and smoochies! xx